Ranking the Top 25 National-Team Jerseys in International Soccer
"You look good. You play good. That's the bottom line."
Given the new and improved kits that continue to come out every year, people in the football (soccer) world seem to agree with him.
Jerseys, or kits, have come a very long way over the years. Gone are the days of the heavy, 100 per cent cotton shirts that were worn in the past. Today, footballers are now fitted with the lightest material possible to allow for optimum performance.
In fact, nine teams sponsored by Nike during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (pictured above) competed with jerseys made entirely from polyester.
But when it comes to kits, football fans really care about one thing: what do they look like?
Ahead of major international competitions, teams will usually reveal a new set of kits that get fans talking about the upcoming tournament. Some fans are left smiling from ear to ear. Others, not so much.
With that, here is my list of the top 25 national-team kits in world football today. Find your team and decide whether or not you approve of what you see.
Get involved in the conversation by leaving your comments below. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all, so let me know which kits you like best, and which of your favorites deserve a higher place on the list.
Follow me on Twitter @GianlucaNesci
25. Japan: Home Kit
We start things off in the land of the rising sun, with perennial Asian Football Confederation (AFC) powerhouse, Japan.
The red stripe straight down the middle is a nice focal point on a shirt that combines navy and royal blue.
This home kit did receive a fair bit of criticism from Japanese supporters when it was first released late in 2011, which seems a little unfair. If they collect positive results while wearing the new kits, you can believe those criticisms will come to an end.
24. Slovenia: Away Kit
Flashy colors on display here, from a team that made a name for itself during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The inclusion of the jagged green stripe adds an important element that breaks up what would have been too much blue to handle.
23. Uruguay: Home Kit
Sometimes, less is more.
That seems to be the plan of attack for Puma here, who will have Diego Forlan and company don this shirt for the upcoming year. The nations' colors are clearly represented, and the kit is still appealing, despite its simple design.
The Sun of May–Uruguay’s national emblem–on the right side just above the chest is a nice touch as well.
22. Cameroon: Home Kit
There is a giant lion’s face on the front of the shirt.
For that reason alone, Cameroon makes an appearance on this list.
Credit to Puma for not taking the safe route here and making the lion a small feature of the kit. You can't miss it.
21. South Korea: Away Kit
The winding red and blue stripes are unique, giving the shirt a fluidity that we don’t see from many others on this list.
It’s nice to see that not every design is based on straight lines.
20. Russia: Home Kit
A solid new kit from the Russians, who have fully recovered from the maroon uniforms they introduced two years ago.
The combination of the white and blue stripe on both the shirt and socks—trust me, it's on the socks as well—is a nice touch that helps you to identify who you are looking at immediately.
19. Mexico: Away Kit
The first in a strong group of black jerseys that appear on this list.
The gold trim on both the sleeves and collar are a nice touch, while the player name and number will also appear in gold when Chicharito and the rest of El Tri hit the pitch.
18. Ivory Coast: Home Kit
Bright orange from head to toe.
Not many nations have a kit nearly as flashy as the Elephants, which is the main reason why they make this list. As Puma did with many other African nations, the added cultural element on the shirt gives this kit a few bonus points.
17. Ghana: Away Kit
Back-to-back African nations represent the strength of the kits that Puma has released this year.
The Black Stars are one of the few teams that will be wearing a shirt that fades from one color to the next. The fact that the two colors are so vibrant makes the kit that much better.
16. Argentina: Home Kit
There are few better looks than the classic blue and white stripes of the Albiceleste. The decision to revert back to the thicker stripes and solid arm color make this an improvement over the previous incarnation.
Is this the kit Lionel Messi will be wearing when he silences those who (wrongly) criticize his performance with Argentina?
15. Spain: Away Kit
The away kit is the pick of the group when it comes to the defending European and World champions. While Spain's new home kit is disappointing, this more than makes amends for it.
The fade effect on the diagonal stripe is an interesting element, but the most integral part of this kit is found on the socks. The colors of the Spanish flag are displayed there, which makes this uniform instantly recognizable as that of La Furia Roja.
14. Italy: Away Kit
The Azzurri boast one of the most classic kits in world football history. A simple blue shirt with the Italian crest—no real bells and whistles needed.
Puma may have dropped the ball with the latest home kit, but managed to redeem themselves with this simple, clean away uniform. The blue block across the chest adds a nice old school feel, as it evokes memories of the shirt worn during the 1974 World Cup.
The only thing better than this for Italy is the goalie shirt that will be worn by Gianluigi Buffon. Brings back memories of legendary goalkeeper Dino Zoff in 1982, doesn’t it?
13. USA: Third Kit
The best American kit in quite some time, it is unclear if it will still be used following the recent release of a new away uniform.
These flashy kits were debuted in March of last year, during a 1-1 draw against Argentina in New Jersey. With results like that, why would you ever want to change your kit?
What do you think? Would you like to see the Americans continue to use the red uniforms?
12. Croatia: Away Kit
The traditional checkerboard look of the home kit feels a little bit outdated.
However, it is a distinctively Croatian feature that has made the shirt one of the most recognizable in world football. Whether you love it or hate it, you know exactly who it represents.
That is what makes this away kit is so great. The shirt and socks keep the traditional aspect of the checkerboard alive, without allowing it to get out of hand.
11. Germany: Home Kit
A nice job from Adidas here, who stick with the classic German color scheme to deliver a clean, sharp kit. The addition of the thin lines on the shirt is a good touch, and they match well with the socks, which brings everything together.
10. Poland: Home Kit
Poland is pulling out all the stops to put on a great show as Euro 2012 co-hosts, and that extends to the squad's kit as well.
This uniform, completed by solid red shorts and white socks, will be one of the more eye-catching during the tournament. The inclusion of the White Eagle—Poland’s national coat of arms—adds another element to an already-sleek kit.
9. Brazil: Home Kit
I had a difficult time choosing between the home and away kits here, but ultimately decided that the classic Brazilian look is just too good to ignore. There are few better sights in the world game than the Selecao playing beautiful samba-style football in their bright yellow shirts.
If only somebody had sent that message to former Brazilian manger Dunga.
8. England: Away Kit
The Three Lions reap the rewards of simplicity with this kit from Umbro.
The color combination works well here, and the choice to make the collar stand out and match the shorts is a very good one.
Can England shake its title as perennial underachievers wearing these uniforms?
7. Australia: Away Kit
A real beauty of a kit for the Socceroo's, one that is significantly better than their new home strip.
The gold adds a stylish element that would not be achieved if it had been the more traditional Australian yellow. Also, the way the vertical stripe is broken up by the crest is quite unique on this list.
6. France: Away Kit
This French kit absolutely oozes class. The switch from Adidas to Nike seems to have been a good decision here.
As with some of the other kits earlier on the list, a simple design that is elegant and clean makes all the difference.
We'll see more of those qualities from the French very shortly.
5. Sweden: Away Kit
Not too much yellow that it smacks you in the face (or hits you with a karate kick), but not too little either.
Sweden and the color have been synonymous with one another for years, so it's nice to see that we can still recognize which team this is based on the color of the kit.
The bold yellow stripe beginning on the shirt and extending into the shorts and socks brings the uniform together.
4. Portugal: Away Kit
The cross on the front of the shirt incorporates the main colors of the Portuguese flag in a simple, yet stylish way. From a marketing perspective, it doesn’t hurt that Cristiano Ronaldo gets to model the kit, either.
CR7 and the rest of the Seleccao will be hoping that these kits can lead them to Euro 2012 glory.
3. New Zealand: Away Kit
One of the best kits out there right now.
Solid black from head to toe, the addition of a few grey elements on the shirt is very sleek. The All Whites may not be as dominant as their rugby counterparts, the All Blacks, but at least they will look just as good (if not better).
Now all they’re missing is the Haka before each and every match.
2. France: Home Kit
Simply could not leave this kit off the list, despite having also included the away uniform.
Each part of the home kit represents one of the colors on the French flag, as opposed to cramming everything into the shirt and treating both the shorts and socks as an afterthought.
But what puts this kit over the top is the sleeve endings. The fact that they can be flipped up to reveal a red side is something no other nation on this list can claim. That allows for each individual player to decide on the look they want on the pitch, which will add an interesting dynamic for fans watching Les Bleus in action.
Who else will follow Yann M'Vila's lead (pictured above) and flip over to the red side?
1. Holland: Away Kit
These black and orange kits are quite simply the best in the world right now, in my opinion. The design is similar to that of other nations on the list, but the combination of the two colors separates the Dutch from the rest of the pack.
The sleek look of the solid black shirt is complimented perfectly by the orange block just above the chest, as well as the orange crest.
This caps off a strong presence for Nike on our list, who have put themselves well ahead of the competition with the latest set of national-team kits.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know who you think deserves the top spot on the list.